Election 2016

How Some Teachers & Students In Texas Are Responding To President-Elect Trump

“They’re questions like ‘Are we going to be sent back to our home countries?” Trump has maintained that his policies will make America better.

Montessori teacher Gina Applegate received this note from a student troubled by the election. Here's her response.
Montessori teacher Gina Applegate received this note from a student troubled by the election. Here’s her response.

 

The morning after Election Day, Montessori teacher Gina Applegate was greeting her students. Then one of her fourth graders arrived in tears. He sat in a bean bag and covered his face with his hoodie.

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

“He was sobbing, sobbing,” Applegate recounted. “When I went to ask him what’s the matter, he was inconsolable in that initial moment.”

Applegate encouraged the 9-year-old to write down what was bothering him. Later he handed her a card. He wrote: “I am scared because Trump hates people of color like me and that is why I’m scared.”

Applegate wrote her student, who is biracial, back.

“I said, ‘I understand your fear, but there is hope because there are many people who care for all the different colors of people and you have the power in you to teach tolerance and show the world compassion. I’ll be there by your side. We’re in this together,” she read.

Later she gathered the whole class at the private Montessori school north of Austin for a conversation about the election. She said they had already discussed different ways to hold elections around the world, but they revisited the Electoral College. Above all, Applegate said that she wants her students to understand different points of view and express their feelings — without a debate contest with winners and losers.

It’s the kind of conversation that’s played out in schools across Texas following Election Day 2016.

In Houston, Anastasia Anderson leads two charters, called Promise Community Schools. Many students are from all over the world, including Mexico, Pakistan and Syria. She says many children from kindergarten to eighth grade asked questions this week.

“They’re questions like ‘Are we going to be sent back to our home countries? Why did such a mean man get a elected?” Anderson said. “Some are questioning, “Is it OK to talk about women the way we’ve heard women talked about?”

Some students expressed fear about a wall between the United States and Mexico or being Muslim.

Anderson said that it’s hard to answer the questions. Trump has maintained that his policies like a building wall with Mexico will make America better.

On campus, Anderson wanted to give students a place where they could talk and express their feelings in a safe environment.  So they gathered in circles.

“We did ask our teachers to spend some time if the students want to talk, listen to them. If they want to play, if they want to dance, if they want to express themselves and let off some steam, because this election has been such a stressful one, allow that to be,” she explained.

Anderson said that they also used the election results as a teaching moment  to reinforce how the U.S. government works – that no one person runs it, but rather several branches.

She added that the election has reinforced another lesson for teachers.

“We’re preparing our next set of adults for the electoral process that they will go through and it’s so important that they be able to handle it responsibly when they become adults,” she said.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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